We often hear horror stories about co-sleeping. In particular, those where the mom accidentally rolls on top of and smothers her infant or even making the baby too dependent. There is plenty of research on either side of the coin.
All things considered, however, there are far more benefits than risks to co-sleeping, with some exceptions. The main exceptions include if you’ve drunk alcohol, smoked cigarettes or have taken any drugs, whether prescription or recreational, that could make you drowsy. Another risk includes when the baby is very small or high-risk. It helps to look at the guidelines for co-sleeping to help you determine whether or not you should do it. In addition, there are a few variations to the traditional bed sharing routine that you might want to look into.
Still, if you’re still not convinced that it can benefit you and your child, here are fifteen benefits that might want to make you cuddle up tonight with your little one.
15 Easy Breastfeeding
For obvious reasons, babies who co-sleep are more likely to successfully breastfeed and breastfeed longer. This is a simple matter of logistics, after all. With the baby close by, all you need to do when you hear her hungry cues is to open up and let her suckle.
This may not seem like a huge deal, but it sure beats having to get up at night. Since your natural milk supply is already there, it’s a no-brainer to just feed right then and there. The benefits do add up in the long run, ultimately making for a healthier breastfed baby.
14 Better Milk Supply
Moms who have trouble maintaining an adequate milk supply might find co-sleeping just the thing for them. This is because breastmilk is best produced when your breasts are emptied at regular intervals throughout the day. You could, of course, settle for pumping your milk, but you must admit there’s not much motivation to do that in the dead of the night. Unless, of course, your baby is right there and so it’s much less effort to get your breasts all drained out.
13 Better Sleep for Baby
Co-sleeping parents have less trouble with getting their little ones to get some shuteye at night. Being close to mom or dad, unsurprisingly has a calming effect on babies. This can provide plenty of reassurance when they wake in the middle of the night. Imagine your baby waking up to a start in the darkness and finding herself alone. It’s not a surprise that she’d cry and ask for company, really.
In fact, brain scans even show that babies who co-sleep have healthier sleep cycles as well.
12 Better Sleep for the Parents
Since the baby sleeps better, it’s no surprise that the benefits add up for mom and dad. Parents who co-sleep have more and better sleep, not having to wake up to a crying baby as much as those who don’t. This is especially beneficial since mom can doze off while breastfeeding, while getting up to breastfeed in another room isn’t as easy.
To top it off, dozing off while breastfeeding on a couch or a recliner is actually far more risky than breastfeeding in the proper position on the bed. But of course, whether you get better sleep from co-sleeping is really up to you and your specific situation and preferences.
11 Reduced Risk for SIDS
Many think that the risk for SIDS is higher with babies who sleep with mom. On the contrary, however, studies do find that SIDS risk actually increases with babies who, surprise, sleep in a crib. The risks of co-sleeping drop further when proper precautions are enforced.
This is not to say, of course, that SIDS cannot occur in babies who co-sleep. Because the causes of SIDS itself can often be mysterious, it is possible. However, with co-sleeping, it becomes easier for parents to detect when something is wrong with their baby. There are other factors to this as well, which we’ll cover in a bit.
10 Normalized Temperature
Babies still cannot regulate their body temperatures. This is why it’s always important to swaddle your baby and keep him in a relatively warm room. She can lose plenty of heat, in particular, through her head, which has a relatively large surface area compared to the body.
Babies who co-sleep, however, have been found to have more normal, stable body temperatures than babies who sleep alone. This is probably because the parent’s own body heat helps in thermoregulation.
9 Better Breathing
Research shows that babies who co-sleep breathe better than babies who don’t. This is believed to be an effect of the baby syncing her breathing with that of mom’s or dad’s, as if taking cues. Another possibility is that the exhaled air from mom and dad makes carbon dioxide levels in the room slightly higher. Because of this, the baby is better stimulated to breathe more to get more oxygen. This might factor in with decreased SIDS risk. Some babies may occasionally fall into irregular breathing patterns, which normalize quite a bit with co-sleeping.
It’s important to note, however, that irregular breathing patterns can also be found in premature babies, a demographic in which co-sleeping on the same bed may not be ideal. If you have a premature baby and would like to co-sleep, a crib in the same room is best.
8 Stable Heart Rate and Rhythm
Infants who co-sleep also have more stable heart rates and rhythms. Researchers also believe that the baby’s heart rate syncs somewhat to the parent’s, although it will naturally be faster. It’s as if being around another human being unconsciously gives your little one cues on her own biological processes. It could also be that better breathing also contributes to more regular heart activity as well.
You must admit that there’s something simply comforting about being near your baby. Physically and psychologically, we human beings just enjoy being with people we care about. Which means that it’s not just you, either. You may have noticed by now that your baby sometimes just want to be picked up or held. Night-time is not an exception. Separation from the parents at this time may even result in anxiety.
Generally, co-sleeping makes for the ultimate night-time comfort for everyone involved.
6 Better Bonding
Co-sleeping also promotes better bonding between parents and the baby. You may be creating many conscious bonding moments with your baby, through just making her laugh or taking photographs of her development. However, psychology suggests that much of bonding is unconscious. Being there in the dark of the night just strengthens your baby’s instinct that you’ll be there when she’ll need you the most. She’ll be more attune with your emotions and your behavior, since she spends more time with you. This is particularly helpful if you live a busy life and don’t have much time to bond with the little one during the day.
5 Less Stress
Although we may associate de-stressing as spending less time with the baby, in this case sometimes more of it can decrease your stress levels! Babies and parents who co-sleep have body clocks that are synced with each other. The little one better senses when you’re asleep, and so also adjusts to your sleep and wake cycle. Overall, this makes for less-stressful parenting. Added to having to wake up less in the middle of the night, you’ll be far more refreshed when you wake up in the morning!
4 Brain Stimulation
Co-sleeping can even make for better brain development. Compared to other animals, many human babies have to do much brain development out of the womb. While all babies do learn rapidly from the environment all day long even immediately after they’re born, there really isn’t a lot of brain stimulation when they’re in the crib alone in the middle of the night. Other than hunger and the discomfort of a wet diaper, that is.
Co-sleeping allows your little one to subconsciously take note of your own behavioral and sleeping patterns, which makes for some of the benefits we’ve already listed above!
3 Later Independence
While co-sleeping is touted as something that will make your baby “too dependent” later in life, the opposite is actually true. Babies who co-sleep are actually more likely to become independent much sooner.
This is because babies and toddlers are much more confident in exploring their environments and testing their autonomy when they’re sure that they have a safe and stable place to return to. In most little kids, this means the parents. Indeed, babies who co-slept soon became kids that were more self-reliant and socially independent many years later.
2 Dad’s Involvement
Co-sleeping is one of the things that can benefit dad just as much as mom. Dads, however, are particularly more concerned about accidentally smothering the baby in their sleep and are less likely to do so. This, however, is easily remedied by taking the recommended precautions to avoid this. Those that do overcome this fear often find that it helps them feel less left out from the large amount of bonding that mom has with the baby during breastfeeding. It also gives them a feeling of involvement in the baby’s day-to-day care.
1 Getting Creative
One great thing about co-sleeping is that it doesn't necessarily mean bed sharing. There are a few other options that can give you more freedom, if you're concerned about the risks. You can opt for a crib in the same room. You can then share the bed if your baby needs to be breastfed or is restless.
The method to use, of course, still depends on you and what works best for you and your baby. But even with a slightly modified arrangement, you can still enjoy many of the benefits of co-sleeping through your little one's infant years.